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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Obama: Military not enough to combat Islamic State

U.N. General Assembly in New York

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NEW YORK -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday said military efforts against the Islamic State would not succeed without addressing the political and economic disparities the terrorist group exploits.

The comments came during a "Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism," which Obama chaired as part of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Since August 2014, the United States has led an international air campaign against IS, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. The president praised the efforts of the 60-nation coalition but reiterated that it will be a lengthy campaign that requires more than military might.

"Our military and intelligence efforts are not going to succeed alone; they have to be matched by political and economic progress to address the conditions that ISIL has exploited in order to take root," Obama said.

The summit, hosted by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, highlighted efforts against IS forces over the past year and provided the participants the opportunity to announce new initiatives.

Obama welcomed Malaysia, Nigeria, and Tunisia as new partners in the anti-IS coalition and expressed gratefulness to the service members of the nearly two dozen nations contributing to the military campaign.

"Ultimately, however, it is not going to be enough to defeat ISIL in the battlefield," Obama said. "We have to prevent it from radicalizing, recruiting and inspiring others to violence in the first place. And this means defeating their ideology. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they're defeated by better ideas -- a more attractive and compelling vision."

Obama pointed out efforts by the United Arab Emirates to counter online propaganda by the group and said the coalition was working to raise up the voices of moderate Muslim scholars who publicly denounce the IS brand of Islam.

Noting that citizens will turn to terrorist propaganda in the absence of political representation, Obama said democratic principles, such as freedom of speech and religion, were key to ending extremism and creating lasting progress.

"Poverty does not cause terrorism," Obama said. "But as we've seen across the Middle East and North Africa, when people, especially young people, are impoverished and hopeless and feel humiliated by injustice and corruption, that can fuel resentments that terrorists exploit. Which is why sustainable development -- creating opportunity and dignity, particularly for youth -- is part of countering violent extremism."Fred Lambert

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